SPRINGFIELD — Legalized same-sex marriage in Illinois is one step from reality, but it's a big step.
An Illinois House committee late Tuesday night narrowly approved a gay marriage bill with the help of a Chicago Democrat who said he'll likely vote against the measure on the House floor.
"I don't want to be the one to not give you guys the opportunity to discuss this bill on the floor of the General Assembly. I don't want to be the obstacle for this bill," Rep. Luis Arroyo told supporters of the same-sex marriage bill. "But I'm going to tell you that I don't think I can vote for this bill on the floor of the House because of my religious beliefs and because of the churches in my district. I will be voting this bill to get it out of committee, but I can't guarantee you on the floor."
Further, another Democrat, Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson of East St. Louis — the only downstater on the 11-member House Executive Committee — was one of the five "no" votes on the bill. All of the other "no" votes came from Republicans.
Same-sex marriage supporters have said all along that the House would prove tougher than the Senate. There, the measure passed on Feb. 14 with 34 votes, four more than were needed. One of the "yes" votes came from Republican Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington.
The bill's House sponsor, Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said after Tuesday's vote — taken around 10:30 p.m. in a nearly packed committee room — that "it looks very good on the full floor."
He then added, "I've never been one to speculate on roll calls on any bills. We will continue to work hard."
There would be no floor vote today or Thursday, Harris said.
Meanwhile, a lesbian couple from Champaign testified for the bill Tuesday.
Ryan Cannon, who said she has a civil union with her partner Daphne Scott-Henderson, told the committee that she "lives in fear every day that her parental rights can be undermined at any time."
The couple, who she said moved to Champaign three weeks ago, has three children.
"When Daphne takes Sebastian (their 4-year-old son) to the doctor, there are always issues, even though it's supposed to be on the record that she can make medical decisions for Sebastian as his parent," Cannon said. "She always has to verify who she is and they always want to call me to confirm. At his school, I still have to come to sign things instead of Daphne because we don't want to have any problems. It's happened before and it's hurtful, not just to us but to Sebastian, who is made to feel as though we aren't a real family."
She said the couple wants to be married because "marriage is meaningful and our family needs it. We love each other. We are committed to each other. We are doing the hard work to keep our children secure, supportive and safe."
A spokesman for the Illinois State Bar Association also endorsed same-sex marriage in Illinois and mentioned Barickman, who has been getting some political heat for his vote.
"We agree with Sen. Jason Barickman that the people of Illinois want our government to give individuals freedom over their live's most important decisions," said Jim Covington of the bar association.
But opponents of the gay marriage bill (SB 10) said that marriage is a rite created by God and that government cannot redefine it, and said that the proposed law would create legal problems for Illinoisans.
"I understand marriage to be between one man and one woman because God is the one who created marriage. If marriage is going to be modified, it's our opinion that it should be modified by the Creator and not by government," said Linda Jernigan, a Chicago minister who told the committee she had been in a lesbian relationship for almost 15 years but that "I have come out of homosexuality."
And Kellie Fiedorek, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, insisted that the measure offers inadequate religious freedom protections to individuals and some organizations.
"I analyzed this bill and it contains no language that will provide comprehensive safeguards for the religious freedom of citizens and religious organizations in the state of Illinois, no language that purports to address, let alone protect, the right to religious freedom of every citizen," Fiedorek said.
She said the legislation "leaves unprotected Christian schools like Loyola University and Maryville Academy," which she claimed would have to allow same-sex marriages on their campuses if they also permit traditional heterosexual marriages.
"It leaves unprotected judges and clerks. It protects clergy and their ability to solemnize a marriage," Fiedorek said. "But under Illinois law, clerks and judges are also allowed to solemnize marriage. But there's no protection for these individuals if they have deeply held religious beliefs."
She said the also law also could affects banquet hall owners, bakeries, photographers, bed and breakfast owners and others in the wedding business who would be required to provide services to same-sex couples.